The Real Deal


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Here’s a deal from the record-breaking 2005 Gatlinburg Regional. There were more than 9000 tables in play for the week — the largest seven-day regional ever.

Try playing the South cards on this deal from one of the many knockout team events:
♠K Q 2  A Q 4   J 7 5   ♣A K J 3
You open 2NT (20–21 HCP) and partner transfers to 3♠. Everyone passes. This is what you see:

♠ J 6 5 4 3
J 10 2
10 6 3
♣ 7 5
♠ K Q 2
A Q 4
J 7 5
♣ A K J 3

West leads the ♣10 (standard) and you win the jack. What is the plan?

Even if spades are 3–2, you might lose the ♠A, the K (if it’s offside) and three diamond tricks, so it’s worth cashing the clubs right away and hope for a good split. In fact, on the ♣AK all follow low as you throw a losing diamond from dummy. Now, even if the heart finesse is wrong, you have only four top losers. Still, danger lurks. What next?

If you tackle trumps right away, you are subject to all sorts of uppercuts and promotions. The defenders can arrange to cash two diamonds and then lead the fourth round of clubs with devastating effect. It is better for you to lead the fourth club yourself. Play the last club and throw a diamond from dummy. This loser-on-loser play reduces the potential loss of a
second trump trick.

On your fourth club, left-hand opponent produces the queen, and as planned you throw a second diamond from dummy. East pitches a heart. West crosses to East in diamonds and East plays a heart. Should you finesse?

If you finesse and West has the king, and East has no hearts left, you will suffer a ruff. However, that is against the odds. Why play for West to have begun with five hearts and four clubs? If he is 5–4 in those suits, it’s unlikely spades are 3–2 as well. It’s more likely that West doesn’t have long hearts — so you should finesse. The full deal was this:

♠ J 6 5 4 3
J 10 2
10 6 3
♣ 7 5
 ♠ 10 8 7  ♠ A 9
 K 8 6 5  9 7 3
 K 9  A Q 8 4 2
 ♣ Q 10 9 6  ♣ 8 4 2
♠ K Q 2
A Q 4
J 7 5
♣ A K J 3

Let’s review. You won the (questionable) club lead and played three more rounds, throwing two diamonds from dummy as RHO threw a heart. West played a diamond to East for a heart through.
East still had two hearts. If you won your ace, you’d be down. East would get in with the trump ace and play his last heart and get a ruff. By ducking, you gain not only if the heart finesse is on, but also if East started with three hearts and the ♠A. After you finesse in hearts, the defenders can cause you no harm, since the communication for a heart ruff is destroyed. You may draw trumps and claim nine tricks for plus 140.

All of your plays were necessary to make the contract. Even with the favorable lead, you had to play perfectly to take advantage. At the other table, your teammate led a trump, and the defenders eventually took five tricks.

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